The best thing the Norwegian Star has going for it is an excellent staff. My family had a lot of fun on the cruise. We stopped in Acapulco, Zihuatenejo, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas.
We were not to thrilled with Acapulco. Immediately off the ship we took a cab for an hour of shopping before our first excursion. This was an absolute nightmare! We bartered the cab driver to drive us around for an hour for $20, which is expensive in Mexico (but beats the $100 we would have paid in the US.) The cab driver took us a ways off the main strip to a "flea market" which had ample items of interest from jewelry to t-shirts. We were shocked when the silver fire-opal necklace/bracelet, baby dress, maracas and two t-shirts started at $1300 (yes dollars!) We realized we had been had. With no other cabs in sight and baby girl with us, we were forced to barter. Eventually we got them down to $200 minus the bracelet just to please the cab driver to get back to port in time. This was fifteen minutes of shopping and 45 minutes of haggling.
Our first excursion in Acapulco was the baby sea turtle and city tour. The most excited I've ever seen my baby girl get is when she got to pet a baby sea turtle. This trip was informative and ecologically worthwhile. If you could leave out the city tour it would have been much better as it made us miss our next excursion, cliff divers and dinner.
Since we missed the dinner excursion, we ended up taking the later night lights and cliff diver excursion. This ended up being a better deal because we got see Fort San Diego and then went to the restaurant were the cliff divers are. We had enough time to eat dinner anyways. We had some Mexican seafood stew which was excellent. And we discovered that the drinks you get for free with the tour fail miserably in comparison to the ones you buy with dinner (10x alcohol!)
Zihuatenejo was our next stop and all of our favorites. My wife and family took the farm tour, which they enjoyed. I took the Ixtapa Canopy Adventure. This was a blast! I was hesitant to take this alone, but ended up being my favorite excursion of all. Zihuatenejo is quaint and laid back. We experienced virtually no begging, less aggressive bartering and everyone was super friendly. Our next trip to Mexico will be straight and only to here.
In Puerto Vallarta we went on an ATV excursion. This is the same place they do several tours and is at a tequila factory. Riding the ATVs in the mexican countryside was very enjoyable, just be prepared to get dirty as it gets very dusty. Afterwards, the tequila tasting was enjoyable and the peach and mango tequila was awesome.
After this excursion, we decided to go downtown for some shopping. Puerto Vallarta is very expensive as Mexico goes for shopping, especially downtown. Most shops have set prices with no bartering. We were disappointed with the shopping downtown and went back to the port. We actually found better deals at the shops near the port than we did downtown.
In Cabo San Lucas, we decide to try Snuba. Neither my wife or myself cared for this. The water was so cold we had troubles controlling our breathing underwater (only through your mouth and with wet suits on.) The water was also very murky and left us disappointed choosing to do this so far North. Cabo was another port that I could have taken or left. By the end of day, I was so sick of being continually hassled by beggars, peddlers and timeshare sellers that it left us with a bad impression of Cabo.
Overall it was a good cruise. The only complaints that I have about NCL is the sales pitches, low payout on-ship casino, lack of sun planning and Norwalk virus paranoia. The on-ship shopping expert is obviously paid by the stores she recommends as Diamonds International, etc. were the highest prices of all the shops we found. Several people complained that on their excursions, they were forced into shopping at cousin Pedro's shop which was outrageously priced.
When you gamble in the states, more than likely the casino has a gaming commission that regulates the casino to ensure fair play. I don't think any third party regulates the on-ship casino and the video games seemed to have very little payback. And bingo is a complete rip, especially with the virtual cards on the computer.
The ship layout on top deck is less than accommodating to the thousands of passengers that want sun. With only a few hundred sun bathing lounge chairs, you practically have to get up at sunrise to get one.
We had several persons contract the Norwalk(-like) virus. This virus is very common in the US with over 15 million cases a year. I appreciate the sanitation efforts, but the continual reminder of Norwalk threat-level got to be annoying.
We will definitely sail with NCL again, but we would rather hit the warmer waters of the Caribbean or Hawaii instead.